Nod to shift 6 hc ‘uncle judges ’
Chandigarh March 10:
The Supreme Court collegium has cleared the names of six Punjab and Haryana High Court judges for transfer. Available information suggests that the judges who would be shifted have their kith and kin practising in the high court.
Among those who would be shifted are Justice MS Sullar, Justice Sabina, Justice TPS Mann and Justice KS Ahluwalia, it is believed. While Justice Mann had sought a transfer after his elevation, Justice Ahluwalia had opted for it in September last. However, the transfers may take some time, as the names would first be sent to the Union Law Ministry and for final clearance to the President.
Meanwhile, the number of judges in the high court would, once the transfers are finalised, come down to 36 from the present 42 even though the sanctioned strength is 68. Notably, the names for transfer have been cleared just over a month after Union Law Minister M Veerappa Moily told reporters that every judge transferred out of a high court should not be considered as corrupt and that even “uncle judges” could be in line for transfer.
Moily, who was in Chandigarh for a seminar on election reforms (organised through Additional Solicitor-General of India Mohan Jain), had asserted that transfers would not only prove beneficial for uncle judges but also for their kith and kin practising there. He had said that his own experience was that some of the judges “proved to be excellent after being transferred out”.
As of now, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has at least 11 judges whose kith and kin practise there. Their list was forwarded to the Union Ministry of Law and Justice much before the Supreme Court came down heavily on the Allahabad High Court over the same issue. The list was sent in response to a communication received by the high court from the central ministry. Prior to that, the ministry had asked various high courts across the country to identify and furnish a list of all such judges.
The issue of uncle judges in the Punjab and Haryana High Court was first raised by the then Chief Justice BK Roy during his tenure from October 14, 2002, to March 20, 2005. He had issued an administrative order barring a group of 10-12 judges from hearing any case argued by their relatives. Was the first to report the issue of uncle judges in the Punjab and Haryana High Court. In fact, it was reported in these columns that uncle judges might soon be a thing of the past.
The Law Commission, too, had discussed the issue in its 230th report. The commission had made it clear that it was against the policy of transferring chief justices and that he should rather be from the same high court. But while elevating advocates as judges, it had said, it should be ensured that their kith and kin were not practising in the same high court. “This would eliminate uncle judges,” it had said.